| Dayal will collect, Pathak will peruse
New Delhi, Nov. 7: Justice R.S. Pathak, the head of the one-man judicial commission that will probe the Paul Volcker report findings, said he would “summon Natwar Singh” and “examine all documents” essential for the inquiry.
Speaking to The Telegraph at his residence at Sardar Patel Marg, Justice Pathak, a retired Chief Justice of India, said his “basic” brief was to go into the “two main allegations” of Natwar Singh and the Congress Party being non-contractual beneficiaries of Iraq’s “oil-for-food” scheme.
He pointed out that the terms of reference for the commission are “yet to be announced”. Once the terms of reference are announced by the government, it would be known “whether the commission is formed under the Commissions of Inquiry Act” or not. The act will give an inquiry panel the right to summon people and seek access to documents.
Justice Pathak said the Virendra Dayal committee, announced last night by the government, was only a “fact- finding one” that would “collect documents and other materials” and submit them before his commission.
“I will examine all such documents and materials and if need be, I would also travel to obtain them. I will also summon Natwar Singh and others as the inquiry would require,” he added.
He did not foresee any problem in obtaining the co-operation of the UN. “A sovereign country’s judicial commission has to be assisted by such a body, especially when allegations of this scale have been levelled.”
Similarly, “summoning” or “requiring information” from various multinational oil companies, too “would not be a problem”. “Let us see whether our requests (to supply documents, give evidence and other materials) are complied with.”
The comment indicates that the Indian judicial commission can only “request” a foreign government or a firm or a body like the UN but could not “summon or compel presence” in India or abroad for the inquiry.
Justice Pathak said the government had assured him that the commission would be “absolutely and totally” independent.
“They, (the government) in fact, asked me a couple of days to give (my) consent. I took those couple of days to consider the offer and finally consented. I told them and they, too, promised me that it (the commission) would be absolutely and totally independent.
“I can choose my own staff... my own assistants... judicial officers if needed. I am clear I would not work if independence were to be compromised or there is any interference”.
He said no time frame was fixed either by the government or those who contacted him. But “as far as possible, I would try to finish it fast”.
“My job is to find the truth. It would be an independent probe and there was no time frame. This will be a one-man commission to probe the entire findings of Volcker report,” the former judge said. “Basically, the two major allegations (of Natwar Singh and the Congress Party being beneficiaries) would be looked into.”
Replying to a question on the fate of the findings of endless commissions in India, he said: “My report would be binding on the government and hence it would not end up as a mockery. The commission would submit its report to the government which would be bound by the findings and recommendations.”